Confused and Frightened

The atmosphere in Petrograd is one of fright and confusion reaching truly unparalleled dimensions.

This was illustrated by a small incident prior to the big incident of banning the demonstration fixed by our Party for Saturday.[1]

This incident was the seizure of Durnovo’s country-house. Minister Pereverzev first ordered the house cleared, but then declared at the Congress that he was letting the people use the garden and that the trade unions were not to be evicted from the house! All that was necessary, he said, was to arrest certain anarchists.[2]

If the seizure of Durnovo’s country-house was unlawful, then it was wrong either to leave the garden for the people’s use or to allow the trade unions to remain in the house. If there were lawful grounds for arrest, the arrest had no bearing on the house, for it could have occurred either in the house oroutside it. As it happened, the house was not “vacated”, nor were any arrests made. The government found itself confused and frightened. Had they not become nervous, there would have been no “incident”, for nothing has clanged anyway.

The big incident was the demonstration. Our Party’s Central Committee, together with a number of other organisations, including the Trade Union Bureau, resolved to call a peaceful demonstration, a march through the streets of the capital. In all constitutional countries, the holding of such a demonstration is an absolutely incontestable civil right. A peaceful street demonstration calling, incidentally, for an amendment of the Constitution or a change in the government is in no way regarded as unlawful by the legislation of any free country.

People who were confused and frightened, including, in particular, the majority at the Congress of Soviets, made an awful “fuss” over the demonstration. The Congress majority adopted a devastating resolution against the demonstration, full of abuse against our Party, and prohibited all demonstrations, including peaceful ones, for three days.

When this formal decision had been adopted, the Central Committee of our Party, as early as 2 a. m. on Saturday, resolved to cancel the demonstration. The cancellation was effected on Saturday morning at an emergency meeting with district representatives.

The question remains: how does our second "government the Congress of Soviets, explain its ban? Agreed that every party in a free country has the right to hold demonstrations, and every government can, after proclaiming a state of emergency, prohibit them. But the political question remains: why was the demonstration banned?

Here is the only political motive, clearly stated in the resolution of the Congress of Soviets:

“We know that concealed counter-revolutionaries want to take advantage of your demonstration [i. e., the one planned by our Party] ....”

That is the reason why the peaceful demonstration was banned. The Congress of Soviets “knows” that there are "concealed counter-revolutionaries" and that they wanted to "take advantage" of the action which our Party had planned.

This statement by the Congress of Soviets is highly significant. And we must re-emphasise this factual statement, which by virtue of its factualness stands out from the spate of abuse levelled at us. What measures is our second government taking against the "concealed counter-revolutionaries"? What exactly does this government “know”? How exactly did the counter-revolutionaries want to take advantage of one pretext or another?

The people cannot and will not wait patiently and passively until those concealed counter-revolutionaries act.

If our second government does not want to remain like people who by bans and torrents of abuse try to cover up their confusion and the fact that they have allowed them selves to be frightened by the Right, it will have to tell the people a great deal about the "concealed counter-revolutionaries" and do a great deal to combat them seriously.


[1] Lenin is referring to the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets banning the demonstration fixed by the Bolshevik Central Committee for June 10 (23), 1917.

Early in June tension in Petrograd grew. The prolongation of the war by the Provisional Government, preparations for an offensive at the front, and food shortages, all caused resentment and indignation among the workers and soldiers. The government’s order to troops to take over the Durnovo country-house and evict the workers’ organisations of the Vyborgskaya Storona district from it gave rise to a strike. On June 7 (20) four factories went on strike, and next day, twenty-eight. The masses were eager to hold a street demonstration.

To ward off provocation and unnecessary loss of life, a joint meeting of the Central and Petrograd Committees, the Military Organisation, and district delegates from the workers and delegates from troop units, held on June 8 (21), carried Lenin’s motion to hold a peaceful organised demonstration. The action was set for June 10 (23).

The Bolshevik Central Committee’s decision to hold a demonstration brought a ready response from the masses and alarmed the government, as well as the Mensheviks and Socialist– Revolutionaries, who resolved to foil the demonstration. On the evening of June 9 (22) the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets, led by them, passed a resolution banning all street demonstrations for three days.

A motion by Lenin, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, not wishing to go against the Congress decision, resolved on the night of June 9–10 to call off the demonstration. Members of the Central and Petrograd Committees and other prominent members of the Party were sent to factories and barracks to dissuade the workers and soldiers from demonstrating. As a result of their explanatory work, the workers and soldiers agreed that it would be unwise to hold a demonstration just then. This indicated the Party’s growing influence, its ability to keep in touch with the people, and the flexibility of the Bolshevik leadership. Two clays later the S.R. and Menshevik leadership of the Congress of Soviets decided to hold a demonstration on June 18 (July 1)—the day when the Russian troops were to take the offensive—as proof of the people’s “confidence” in the Provisional Government.

Under Lenin’s personal leadership, the Central and Petrograd Committees did a great deal to ensure that the demonstration reflected the true sentiment of the people and win that important peaceful battle against the Mensheviks and S.R.s for influence among the people. Lenin took part in preparations for the demonstration by formulating watchwords, checking the preparation o( streamers and banners, giving directions to correspondents, writing telegrams to be sent to local Bolshevik organisations, taking steps to guarantee that there would be an adequate number of Bolshevik speakers, putting his own name on the list of speakers, and attending the Marsovo Polye meeting.

June 18 (July 1) the demonstration brought some 500,000 Petrograd workers and soldiers out into the streets. By far most of the demonstrators carried Bolshevik revolutionary slogans. Only small groups carried the conciliating parties’ slogans expressing confidence in the Provisional Government. The demonstration revealed the heightened revolutionary spirit of the people and the vastly increased influence and prestige of the Bolshevik Party. It also revealed the complete failure of the petty-bourgeois conciliating parties backing the Provisional Government. Lenin dealt with the June demonstration in “The Eighteenth of June”, “Three Crises” (see pp. 110–12 and 171–75 of this volume) and other articles.

[2] After the victory of the February revolution the workers’ organisations of the Vyborgskaya Storona district (the bakers’ union, the district branch of the people’s militia, etc.), joined by the anarchists, took over the vacant country-house of tsarist ex-Minister Durnovo and the adjoining garden (20 dessiatines in area), which the workers of the district subsequently used as recreation grounds.

On June 7 (20) the Provisional Government, backed by the S.R. and Menshevik majority on the Petrograd Soviet and then by the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets, ordered the country-house to be vacated. The order brought protests from the Petrograd workers, particularly those of Vyborgskaya Storona. Several factories struck. The government arresting 59 people. As the overwhelming majority of the arrested had nothing to do with the anarchists, they had to be released shortly after. The raid deeply angered the workers.

For several weeks the bourgeois press was busy playing up the “horrors” which it alleged to have taken place at the country-house, and used this particular incident to the hilt to campaign against the revolutionary-minded masses and the Bolsheviks.

24 June 1917


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